Tuesday, September 13, 2005
In 1966, the Supreme Court held that the poll tax was unconstitutional. Nearly 40 years later, Georgia is still charging people to vote, this time with a new voter ID law that requires many people without driver's licenses - a group that is disproportionately poor, black and elderly - to pay $20 or more for a state ID card. Georgia went ahead with this even though there is not a single place in the entire city of Atlanta where the cards are sold. The law is a national disgrace.Uh, not ONE place to get the cards in Atlanta. Not one?
Until recently, Georgia, like most states, accepted many forms of identification at the polls. But starting this month, it is accepting only government-issued photo ID's. People with driver's licenses are fine. But many people without them have to buy a state ID card to vote, at a cost of $20 for a five-year card or $35 for 10 years. The cards are sold in 58 locations, in a state with 159 counties. It is outrageous that Atlanta does not have a single location. (The state says it plans to open one soon.) But the burden is also great on people in rural parts of the state.
The Republicans who pushed the law through, and Gov. Sonny Perdue, also a Republican, who signed it, say that it is intended to prevent fraud. But it seems clear that it is about keeping certain people away from the polls, for political advantage. The vast majority of fraud complaints in Georgia, according to its secretary of state, Cathy Cox, involve absentee ballots, which are unaffected by the new law. Ms. Cox says she is unaware of a single documented case in recent years of fraud through impersonation of a voter at the polls.
Citizens who swear they are indigent are exempt from the fee. But since the law does not define who is indigent, many people may be reluctant to swear and risk a criminal penalty. More important, the 24th Amendment, which outlawed poll taxes in federal elections, and the Supreme Court's decision striking down state poll taxes applied to all Americans, not just to the indigent. A Georgian who votes only in presidential elections, and buys a five-year card to do so, would be paying $10 per election. That is no doubt more than many people on fixed incomes, who struggle to get by but are not legally indigent, are willing to pay to vote.
If Georgia's law remains in place, other states are likely to follow. There is also growing concern among voting-rights advocates that a self-appointed election reform commission, led by James Baker, the former secretary of state who played a troubling role in the disputed 2000 election, and former President Jimmy Carter, may be about to propose national voter ID standards that would similarly make it harder for poor people and blacks to vote.
The American Civil Liberties Union is planning to challenge Georgia's law. It will have several strong legal claims, starting with the 24th Amendment. The Supreme Court said in 1966, in striking down the poll tax, that "the right to vote is too precious, too fundamental to be so burdened." It still is.
Come on, that's disenfranchisement so obvious that they should just hang the American swastika in front of the polls next year.
I don't even think Scalia and his hand puppet Thomas would defend this.
This has been a bullshit issue for the GOP for years, but only Georgia has had the balls to try it.